500 Word Noir Project
Suggestions: The Underworld, Bitterly Divorced Couple, A Candle
Word Count: 599…with no pithy apology or explanation.
Zeus and Hera Go to Hell
They arrive unburied, bickering, the last of the gods to die, still arguing about who let the Titans send them tumbling from Olympus to the Underworld.
“Faithless betrayer! Cringing worm!” Hera snarls.
Zeus spits, “Vengeful, venomous bitch!”
Charon grumbles in his boat. He’ll get no coins from these two.
I clear my throat.
“Who are you?” Hera demands.
“Where are the usual judges?” Zeus cries, “Minos, Rhadamanthus, Aeacus?!”
That ain’t us. We’re not the kind of trifecta to put on airs.
The most obvious character holds a lit candle balanced on a mirror, and a plate bearing a bloody impaled heart. That’s The Arbiter.
The balding, saggy-breasted galoot with the sad eyes goes by ‘The Bystander.’
Me? I’m The Sleuth.
I break it to them,“Seeing how everybody’s in bed with everybody, the honcho thought it’d be better to have a, whaddayacallit, ‘disinterested party,’ preside over you goofs.”
Zeus tilts his head innocently, “Honcho?”
“Hades! Who else?” Hera slaps him, “And don’t try that ‘I’m a cute little bird’ act. You can’t transfigure here, and no one’s buying it.”
“If you hadn’t divorced me and unbalanced Olympian structure-!”
“If you hadn’t coerced me to marry by force-!”
The Arbiter speaks, “That’s not why you’re here.”
I roll up my sleeves, “What did you do, the last time you were in your garden, Hera?”
“Pruned olive trees,” She sniffs.
“…That little air nymph?” I press.
Hera sighs, “Kept buzzing around my ears! I threw my shears at her!”
I turn to Zeus, “What’d you do last time you were gambling?”
“I won,” he brags.
“You tossed a concession to the loser, didn’t you?” I prompt.
“Traditon. Gave the dumb yokel a crappy crossbow.”
“Hey!” I shake The Bystander awake, “Tell me. What was the last thing you saw before the Titans pulled their big hit on Olympus?”
“Welp,” The Bystander sighs, “I was fishing. Kinda hot out there on the boat.”
I redirect, “Enough commentary. What did you see?”
“Clear day. Could see all the way out to the rock where Prometheus was chained. ‘Course, I say was. Wandering beachbum with a crossbow shot the liver-eating eagle out of the air. Then, a little air nymph blew in and cut ol Prom’s chains.”
“How bout that,” I clear my throat, “Mystery solved.”
They get cacophonous.
“Prometheus orchestrated it!”
“So, what?! It’s both our faults?!”
“Who’s fault is it more?!”
I remind them, “There’s no justice in the Underworld, kids. The other gods are now as purposeless as any dead mortal, frozen psyches, looping through the boring routines of the dead. We have something a little different in mind for you two.”
The Arbiter begins, “Cerberus! Eat their bodies.”
The dog’s six ears perk up. He stops digging a hole on the shore of the Styx, and trots dutifully towards the duo, happy to fulfill a command.
The Arbiter continues, “Zeus, your psyche will stay between this candle and this mirror, eternally trapped in the self-reflection your immortal self evaded.”
Cerberus launches at Zeus’s crotch.
“Hera, your psyche will stay in this stabbed heart, always to feel the pain you’ve caused others, never to let go of your own hurt,” The Arbiter concludes.
Cerberus paws at Hera’s breasts, then goes to town.
The Arbiter leaves the artifacts on the shore. I tell The Bystander they’re free to go. My job is done. I pop a squat on the sand.
“Got any grog, Charon?”
Charon grunts. He produces a slimy bottle.
We share a briny nip and stare out into the mist.
“Ain’t exactly picturesque,” I say.
Char shrugs and farts.